Image: Mark Thatcher
Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is seen outside Wynberg Magistrate's Court in Cape Town, South Africa, following his arrest for alleged involvement in a coup plot. news services
updated 8/31/2004 11:41:40 AM ET 2004-08-31T15:41:40

An Equatorial Guinea court Tuesday suspended trial indefinitely in an alleged coup plot in this oil-rich nation, saying it wanted more information on the alleged roles of Mark Thatcher, son of the former British prime minister, and other international financiers.

Attorney General Jose Olo Obono asked for the suspension, saying it was “in the interest of transparency in light of new information coming out everyday — these new elements like Mark Thatcher’s detention and questions about the financing.”

“It is not possible to pass a just sentence under these circumstances,” he said.

The three-judge tribunal agreed, saying international investigations needed to be finished before the trial could go on.

Thatcher was placed under house arrest in South Africa on Aug. 25 after he posted a $2 million bond. Prosecutors accuse Thatcher and his alleged co-conspirators of scheming to replace Obiang’s 25-year-old regime with a puppet government, and South Africa is considering a request by Equatorial Guinea to question him.

Defense attorneys protest suspension
Defense attorneys protested the trial’s suspension, saying that under Equatorial Guinea law it could mean up to five-year’s pretrial detention for the 19 accused mercenaries who have already been subjected to six months imprisonment and alleged torture here.

Authorities say they foiled the alleged plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang in early March, as dozens of suspected mercenaries allegedly prepared at airports in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea into launch the coup plot.

A total of 88 men are now detained in Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the case. Two others were released after their acquittal Friday in Zimbabwe. They returned to South Africa on Saturday saying they had been tortured.

A 91st accused, a German, died in custody here after what Amnesty International said was torture. Equatorial Guinea’s government is routinely accused by the U.S. State Department and others of torture and other rights abuses.

Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, says he is innocent and will cooperate with investigators, his lawyer has said. His wife, Diane, arrived in London on Tuesday from Johannesburg with their son, 15, and daughter, 11. She is flying to Texas with the children to take them to school and then returning to South Africa, a family spokesman said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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